Did you know I took tap dancing lessons? I did, in second and third grades. Tap dancing overlapped with the time in my life when I lost the ability to smile. Starting with my kindergarten school picture and until I was about eight, I went through a existential smile crisis. Any camera pointed in my direction caused my brain to panic and then attempt to move my mouth in various shapes. I tried everything from open mouth grimaces to tiny dimple-inducers to full on mouth commas. I was an ugly-cute kind of kid, the sort of girl with a Buddha belly, braces on my front four teeth, and a constant need for attention. Kids like me need a cute smile when all we have to offer the world are repeated shouts of “LISTEN TO ME SING LIKE THE LITTLE MERMAID.”
Back to tap dancing. Every dance recital has a theme and my first year of lessons was “Dancin’ Up a Storm”, with each class having their own weather-related song and dance number. For Beginner Tap, we had “Raindrops Keep Falling On Your Head”. Our costumes were ugly-ugly, as dictated by Dance Law, but the best part was our white umbrellas, a rare prop.
Twenty-one years later and I still remember thinking to myself, “Don’t smile too big and ruin the picture,” so in my personal dance portrait, one of me bending my knees while holding the coveted umbrella, I tried a wide no-teeth smirk. This smirk morphed my nose from an upturned snub to a pointy beak, made my full cheeks even rounder and caused my chin to grow an extra three inches. I looked like Dick Van Dyke. To be more accurate, I looked like Dick Van Dyke’s chubby, awkward granddaughter trying not to pee her bloomers.
I guess what I’m trying to say I have a new job right next to a river and these are some of the things you think about when it takes you 15 minutes to drive to work and 10 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the office.